15 August 2016

Today, Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU) became the first and only institution of higher education to challenge in court a 2011 mandate from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that colleges and universities adjudicate using a unconstitutional process and standard. The suit is sponsored by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the nation’s leading advocate for civil liberties on campus.

This mandate for institutions governed by Title IX—all but a few colleges and universities nationwide—was first announced in OCR’s April 4, 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter (DCL). OKWU is joining a federal lawsuit which seeks to invalidate this provision of the DCL on the grounds that it was not offered for public notice and comment as required by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). This requirement ensures government agencies do not have unfettered discretion to create new laws—a function normally performed by Congress.

“OKWU will always defend our students’ constitutional rights,” said, Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. “We also refuse to accept any government intrusion that would require OKWU to teach the antithesis of our Christian beliefs concerning sexual behavior. Finally, all of our students should have the legal right to avail themselves of local law enforcement without their petition being compromised by the intrusion of an OCR-mandated committee of amateurs that contravenes the due process and confidentiality of the legal process.”

“The Department of Education used Title IX as a pretext to suddenly and unilaterally change the law—imposing a one-size-fits-all mandate which essentially requires colleges to negate the constitutional rights of our students,” said Piper. “Oklahoma Wesleyan is committed to protecting our students and their legal rights and this mandate is an infringement upon those rights and on the privacy of mainly the young women with whom we have been entrusted. While we fully support Title IX as it was written and passed in 1972, the officials at the Department of Education unfortunately have taken it upon themselves to implement an unrelated social agenda using Title IX to coerce and intimidate schools through the threat of a loss of federal funding. This must stop. Our individual freedoms and liberties, endowed to us by God and enshrined in our Constitution, are too important to be infringed upon by bureaucratic mandate.”

OKWU has distinguished itself by being the only university in the nation willing to stand up in defense of institutional autonomy and the principles of fundamental fairness and due process. “Many colleges have complained that the Department of Education unilaterally and illegally exceeded its authority when it issued the Dear Colleague Letter,” said Robert Shibley, Executive Director of FIRE, “but only Oklahoma Wesleyan has taken the steps to challenge the federal government’s overreach. Advocates from across the political spectrum agree that the Department of Education’s Title IX expansion has illegally limited students’ constitutional rights and has put colleges and universities in an untenable position. Now, Oklahoma Wesleyan is reminding the federal government that following the law is not optional.”